Editor’s note: Why we are quiet on the Open magazine story

Editor’s note: Why we are quiet on the Open magazine story

I guess it’s only a matter of time before someone asks me on Twitter why Mint has chosen to stay silent on the transcripts carried in Open magazine that point to the involvement of, among others, Hindustan Times Advisory editorial director Vir Sanghvi (Mint is published by the same company that does HT) and NDTV’s Barkha Dutt in matters concerning lobbyist Niira Radia, former telecom minister A. Raja, the Congress and the DMK, and the fight between the Ambani brothers.

Like other editors, I too received some documents (they were left for me in a brown envelope in the reception to the Mint office but I had no doubt where they came from) that carried some of the excerpts published in Open magazine (not all). The reason we didn’t act on them was because we couldn’t authenticate them. Most of the sensational disclosures appeared on pages that were not marked or without a letterhead; these were interspersed with mundane disclosures that appeared on the letterhead of one government department or another.

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The mere submission of a more detailed set of transcripts in the court doesn’t, at least to my mind, make the documents any better as “source" for a newspaper article. They could be authentic, but there’s a chance that they could be forged.

My reporters and editors had no way of finding out, which (and believe me, we tried) I think is the responsibility of an honest newspaper to do. A few weeks back, we decided not to carry a report by a government agency against an industrialist past his prime simply because it was full of holes — far from damning the subject of the investigation, the report made the agencylook foolish. Still, its appearance in a paper like Mint would have itself bestowed it with some credibility.

Earlier this year, we declined to jump on to the IPL scam bandwagon. Other newspapers were attributing sensational disclosures to a “source" report from the IT department. It emerged later that no such report existed. Just as a point of comparison, the New York Times spent three months vetting the Pentagon papers.

In our desire to publish only information we can verify, we may miss some stories.